Sunday, July 18, 2010

Purgatory


I know I said my next post would be on relics. The heart of Saint John Vianney came to a local church and I was going to go and include that experience, but I didn't go. So, the relic post can wait. On to Purgatory... well, not literally. :-/

"...and the judge will deliver you up to the jailer and the jailer throw you into prison. I warn you, you will not be released from there until you have paid the last penny." (Luke12:58-59)


Jesus is warning us, obviously. But check it out, he's also indicating that, perhaps for at least some, eternal damnation isn't their fate.

Catholics believe that when we die, we go to Heaven, Hell, or Purgatory. Purgatory is a way for those who died in God's Grace and friendship to be purified before entering Heaven. You can go straight to Heaven if you're already pure when you die. That's a pretty special category of people. Well, you could get lucky. You could be martyred. (Sorry to be such a cynic. I just think most of us do not die clean enough for Heaven. But what do I know?)

Think about it; if nothing unclean can get into Heaven (Rev21:27), and hardly any of us die completely clean, Heaven would be a pretty empty place if there was no Purgatory. We need a way to "wipe our feet" and generally spruce up our souls before entering the Kingdom of God. Yes?

I guess we can't really understand what Purgatory is or how it works, but at least once in the Bible it's likened to fire:

"That Day will test the quality of each man's work. If the building of a man has raised on this foundation still stands, he will receive his recompense; if a man's building burns, he will suffer loss. He himself will be saved, but only as one fleeing through fire." 1Cor.3:13-15

This passage cannot refer to the fire of Hell or the soul could not flee it. What is it if not Purgatory. I know the Bible doesn't use that word, but it also doesn't use the word "Trinity" and a mess of other words we use these days to name Christian beliefs.

If there is no Purgatory, what is this "prison" Jesus went to after he died on the cross? "It was in the spirit also that he went to preach to the spirits in prison." (1Peter3:19)

Here's a link to an article about Purgatory and includes evidence that it was a belief of early Christians:
www.catholic.com/library/Purgatory.asp

John Martignoni has a great talk on Purgatory at the Bible Christian Society.
http://www.biblechristiansociety.com/home.php

I grew up with the concept of Purgatory and praying for the dead is something that comes naturally to me. I am not familiar with all of the arguments against it. In fact, I only recently learned that not all Christians pray for their dead. I thought it was universal, but I guess if you think there is no Purgatory, you think there is no point in praying for the dead. The souls in Heaven don't need our prayers and the ones in Hell are beyond help. But the early Christians did pray for their dead. I don't know the reason some of us stopped the practice.

Questions? Answers? Comments?



Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Our Blessed Mother Mary and The Other Saints *And A Writers Conference*

**There's going to be a Catholic Writers Conference in Valley Forge in August. Click here for more info.**
Now back to our regularly scheduled blog...

The other day a friend asked me to pray for her family friend who was going through a particularly brutal time. I said to her, "Why would you ask such a thing? I'm just a human like yourself. Take your prayers directly to God." I'm just kidding! Of course I added my prayers to hers and those of the others who were praying for this person. Why wouldn't I? I'm sure you would too.

So why do some people think it's odd when Catholics ask Mary and the other saints to pray for us? Just because they have died doesn't mean they're no longer part of the Body of Christ. In fact, isn't it written "...the prayer of the righteous man availeth much"? (James 5:16) Now you must trust me on this, the saints are wayyyy more righteous than I am.


One Mediator

I suppose some folks object to praying to Mary and the saints because they worry that we're thinking of them to be like deities, but that can't be further from the truth. We are inspired by them and identify with them because they struggled on earth just like we are struggling. In most cases they struggled more. And they remembered that God is number one, even the ones who started off as big ol' sinners.

So, we learn from them, are inspired by them, and ask them to pray for us.

But the Bible says "For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus." (1 Tim. 2:5)

Does that mean nobody is supposed to pray for anybody else? Well, hold on. Let's back up a bit. Literally. If we go backwards in the same letter you get this passage:

...I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be offered for all men, especially for kings and those in authority, that we may be able to lead undisturbed and tranquil lives in perfect piety and dignity. Prayer of this kind is good, and God our savior is pleased with it, for he wants all men to be saved and come to know the truth. (1 Tim. 2:1-5)

So you see, if we look at the whole picture, not just the one sentence, we see what Saint Paul is saying- that praying for others does not interfere with Jesus's role as mediator.

You know, it's always a good idea to crack open your Bible when anybody spouts out a quote so that you can read the whole passage, not just what they're quoting. You got to get the context to understand the entire picture.



Saint Stuff

Do you have a photo of Mom on your mantel? Do you keep a lock of Baby's hair in a scrap book? Maybe you still have Dad's basketball trophy or the medal Grandpa received for serving in the armed forces.

Statues of saints do not constitute idol worship. We in the Catholic Church do not worship saints nor their statues, pictures, or even their relics. Images are visual reminders. Humans are physical beings and as such, we respond to images, smells, and other physical sensations.

Let's think of Mary. If God can find her admirable enough to be the mother of our Savior, she is surely a worthier subject for a painting than a barn in winter or a pair of kittens in a flower pot.

At the Bible Christian Society web site, you can find more on this topic.

A two minute bit-
http://www.biblechristiansociety.com/apologetics/two_minute#15

Free audio cds and tapes. See the one called, "Communion of Saints."

Or as a free download:
http://www.biblechristiansociety.com/download

Or check out the article at Catholic.com:
http://www.catholic.com/library/Praying_to_the_Saints.asp

The Hail Mary

Hail Mary, full of grace.

Our Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
now and at the hour of our death.
Amen.

Where did we get this prayer? The Hail Mary is based on passages in Luke- specifically Luke 1:28-35, 42-48.
The words were drawn from the Angel's greeting to Mary, and Elizabeth's words when Mary came to visit her. Should we not also honor our Lord's mother?And we see from the Wedding at Cana that Mary will intercede.

Okay, that got long- next time we'll talk about relics. :)